Parents care about their children keeping a healthy, active lifestyle, but may not be fully confident in their ability to influence healthy habits, according to a survey by the YMCA and the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight. In addition to improving mental and physical health, the following are tips for keeping your children healthy and active this summer:
- Lead by Example
Take time to discuss the benefits of certain foods or physical activities with your child or teenager. Set a good example by engaging in physical activities such as walking or biking, and eating meals as a family.
- Encourage Exercise
Children and adolescents should get at least 1 hour of physical activity every day. Daily routines should include age-appropriate aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening exercises, with most emphasis placed on moderate-to-vigorous–intensity aerobics.
- Promote Healthy Eating
Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is imperative to proper growth and development. Limit consumption of solid fats, cholesterol, sodium, added sugars, and refined grains, and promote a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free/low-fat dairy products.
- Limit Screen Time
Engagement with high-quality–content media entertainment should occur for ≤1 to 2 hours a day for children and adolescents. Establish “screen-free” zones by ensuring no televisions, computers, or video games are in children’s bedrooms, and keep the television turned off during dinner.
- Provide Mental Stimulation
Create a summer reading list, and consider rewarding children for every book they finish reading. Make trips to the library, and encourage imaginative creativity through playtime with arts and crafts. For teenagers, recommend volunteer programs, part-time jobs, and preparation for college.
- YMCA of the USA. YMCA releases Family Health Snapshot survey findings; kicks off awareness campaign to reduce learning and health gaps that could hold kids back. www.ymca.net/news-releases/national-survey-kids-healthy-habits-decline-during-summer. Published April 23, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2015.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Weight-control Information Network. Healthy eating & physical activity across your lifespan. www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/helping-your-child-tips-parents/Documents/helpingyourchild.pdf. Updated January 2012. Accessed May 8, 2015.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth physical activity guidelines toolkit. www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/physicalactivity/guidelines.htm. Updated March 5, 2014. Accessed May 8, 2015.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nutrition and the health of young people. www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/nutrition/facts.htm. Updated October 6, 2014. Accessed May 8, 2015.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and children. www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx. Accessed May 8, 2015.
- Dorothy Amatucci for US Department of Education. Stopping the summer slide. www.ed.gov/blog/2014/03/stopping-the-summer-slide/. Accessed May 8, 2015.